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They're Lining Up at Cult California Donut Bar in Scottsdale

They're Lining Up at Cult California Donut Bar in Scottsdale
Chris Malloy
On Saturday, at 8:30 in the morning, a line of people in light jackets and hats curled through the west end of Scottsdale Promenade, the labyrinthine strip mall in North Scottsdale. Donut Bar, a doughnut-bar hybrid with locations in San Diego and Las Vegas, had just opened. By 10:30 a.m., Donut Bar had sold some 1,300 donuts. None were left.

The next morning at 8:30, the line was shorter. Only 40 minutes. Once the line snaked you inside, the thrum of loud pop music seemed to shake the L-shaped storefront. Behind the counter, a man toasted buttered doughnuts on a flattop for French toast and grilled cheese. By 9:15 a.m., the chai and creme brûlée doughnuts were finished.

A few weeks ago, it might have seemed that the Valley was at peak doughnut. With at least a half-dozen solid places to go for sweet fried dough with or without a hole in the middle, it seemed we had enough options.

But no. Supply of new-age doughnuts still clearly trails demand.

click to enlarge The line at Donut Bar opening weekend. - CHRIS MALLOY
The line at Donut Bar opening weekend.
Chris Malloy

Donut Bar supplies more than just doughnuts. There are espresso and cold brew options. There are mimosas and craft beers from places like Dragoon Brewing Company and THAT Brewery, both based in Arizona. There are all kinds of doughnuts: new-age and old-school; huge yeasted and tighter, crisper, simply fried; whole and hole; filled and unfilled; Cookie Monster and blood orange and unicorn and strawberry cream cheese. More crucially, arguably, the branding is stellar.

Playing off of Yoda, shirts read “Do or DONUT, there is no try.”

A kitchen window disclosed aproned men and women rolling dough, stacking trays.

There was a black Ferrari out front with a doughnut pun on its license plate.

click to enlarge Strawberry cream cheese doughnuts. - CHRIS MALLOY
Strawberry cream cheese doughnuts.
Chris Malloy
The boxes at Donut Bar are huge, almost like pizza boxes, and most people were filling them from thin wall to thin wall. Maple bourbon. Salted caramel. Apple cider. Mud pie.

Donut Bar offers an expectedly wide range of doughnuts. They are good, but, despite the hype, no better than any of the other top doughnut shops we have in the Valley. But you can’t go wrong with a doughnut like Homer’s (riffing on The Simpsons), a crisp cruller just barely dipped in chocolate, or a massively pillowy Nutella cake doughnut topped with hazelnuts.

The menu changes daily. If you want to choose from all of it, go early.

Donut Bar. 16205 North Scottsdale Road #110, Scottsdale; 480-656-5754.
Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
*Morning hours end early when the supply of doughnuts does. 
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy